Take a moment to recall what you know about how Sigmund Freud sounded. You have a pretty clear idea, right? German accent, measured and a bit truncated, with maybe the slightest bit of uptalk? The strange thing is, we only have one audio recording of the man himself, in a message for the BBC in 1938. It was recorded a year before his death, and at 81 years old, inoperable oral cancer had him in intense pain. Here’s the recording with the transcript below.
I started my professional activity as a neurologist trying to bring relief to my neurotic patients. Under the influence of an older friend and by my own efforts, I discovered some important new facts about the unconscious in psychic life, the role of instinctual urges, and so on. Out of these findings grew a new science, psychoanalysis, a part of psychology, and a new method of treatment of the neuroses. I had to pay heavily for this bit of good luck. People did not believe in my facts and thought my theories unsavory. Resistance was strong and unrelenting. In the end I succeeded in acquiring pupils and building up an International Psychoanalytic Association. But the struggle is not yet over.
Just as rare are videos of the psychoanalyst, although there is some footage from 1932. In it, Freud enjoys some outdoor time with a friend and his dog Jofi, all while daughter Anna narrates. She kept the film mostly under wraps until her death in 1982. According to her narration, neither Freud—who was born on this day in 1856—nor his friend knew they were being photographed, as her father did not like to have his photo taken.